Hacker Newsnew | comments | show | ask | jobs | submitlogin

This is going to be my tenth (?!) year at DEF CON.

The culture of DEF CON, and especially its evolution, is a very interesting one. When I first attended DEF CON, it was a bunch of seemingly scary hackers. Fortunately, it turns out most of them were amazing people.

As the conference grew (and changed venues several times), the culture began to evolve. The barrier to entry--in terms of being "accepted" into the subculture--lowered significantly. DEF CON stopped being a scary place, with goons that would "de-tech" you and throw you in the pool, and more of a mainstream event. For the most part, I'm completely supportive of where DEF CON's going. I'm definitely supportive of air conditioning in the venue, instead of standing outside in the sweltering Las Vegas summertime heat.

That said, though, it's not really a "hacker conference" anymore. Not more than its sister conference, Black Hat, or something like RSA, anyway.

DEF CON used to be about hacking. Not in the HN sense, but in the "illegal entry into networks" definition. Now, it's less about hacking and more about the actual information security industry; this is probably related to the fact that everyone I knew at the first DEF CON I attended (myself included) currently works in the infosec industry.

With growth, exposure, and the inclusion of white hats, DEF CON naturally became a recruiting ground for federal agencies, including law enforcement, the military, intelligence, etc. The 'spot the fed' game that began as a joke (with prizes!) soon seemed silly, since there were so many federal employees/recruiters/agents.

I'm all for DEF CON entering the mainstream. It's a conference and community that I've grown to love, and the lessons I've learned there (not to mention the friends I've made) have helped me immensely--both personally and professionally. That said, though, there's pretty much zero chance that this announcement DT made will have any effect whatsoever on federal agents, recruiters or representatives attending the con. More than anything, it's a huge publicity stunt.

After all, most of the staff and "old school" attendees work for "the man" now. For some, like me, it's just hacking for money; many, though, actually do work for defense and intelligence contractors. Should they be banned because of their affiliation?

Personally, I don't think so.

PS: If you're considering going to DEF CON and you've never been, you should! It's a booze-fueled learning, partying and networking event unlike any other. Plus, you get to hang out in Vegas for a weekend!




>many, though, actually do work for defense and intelligence contractors. Should they be banned because of their affiliation?

Absolutely. The hacker community should not contribute to the knowledge of those who work to undermine privacy and feed the surveillance-industrial complex.

-----


James Bamford pointed out in The Shadow Factory (back in 2008), that much of the "surveillance-industrial complex" is outsourced and that much of this bleeding edge tech is in fact coming from private companies (Narus, companies originating from Israel, etc). Should DEFCON setup a review board to ban employees from private companies they also don't agree with?

-----


Why not? Contributing to the knowledge of companies such at Narus is detrimental to the good of humanity.

-----


When is discrimination against an individual based on his or her employer detrimental to the good of humanity?

-----


If one doesn't want to be besmirched by the dealings of an employer that profits from supplying mass surveillance tech then one should work elsewhere.

-----


How are you defining things that are to the detriment of humanity? Which ethical system are you making judgements like that on? Does the scale of things that are bad for humanity come into play?

-----


If you want to make a case for an "ethical system" in which mass surveillance is good for humanity be my guest (and PM me your email login credentials while you're at it: I promise not to use them irresponsibly).

-----


You're not the NSA; defending mass surveillance by them is not incompatible with not trusting you with one's email account.

Not that I defend mass government surveillance, I'm just tired of that pseudo-argument.

-----


The NSA is made up on individuals like you or me and Edward Snowden has made the case that there's little preventing any insider from accessing what they want on whomever they want. As the surveillance state becomes an accepted part of modern society there will be those who seek involvement in it expressly for the purpose of abusing or exploiting their power.

-----


They are individuals, yes (though they are certainly not random people), but they still operate within a structure that shapes their actions. For example, while I oppose it on philosophical grounds, I don't see an NSA operator exploiting my email credential for any personal purpose. But some random guy on HN - who knows? He might just post them on 4chan for the lulz.

It's simply a facile argument that weakens the real arguments against mass state surveillance.

-----


It's not a bad argument, there's just better ones.

For example, while I oppose it on philosophical grounds, I don't see an NSA operator exploiting my email credential for any personal purpose.

It's perfectly possible to be crushed by a system without any of those operating the levers knowing or feeling anything personally about you. Systemic exploitation, a corrupt system if you will, is hardly better than corrupt individuals within a system, and the most horrific things in history all were rather apersonal, that's kinda what allowed them to reach an otherwise impossible scale, ferocity and longevity.

People distrusting people while trusting faceless agencies is the problem, not the solution.

-----


Actually, I don't think Snowden has made that case. He's asserted it, certainly, but things like the PRISM slides don't back him up.

-----


> defending mass surveillance by them is not incompatible with not trusting you with one's email account.

How on earth can you make that argument? Ostensibly, by giving him the credentials you trust something to keep your privacy private. With the feds, you have no choice.

-----


I'm sorry, could you please rephrase that? I don't understand what you mean.

-----


So discrimination against employees is okay if you don't like the employer?

-----


Certainly, yes. Is it not ok to discriminate against someone who has joined a terrorist group and is actively helping them? Is an army medic not rightly discriminated against by the other side if the medic's side loses the war?

Discrimination is bad when it's about 'who someone is', never when it's about 'what someone does'. Providing work and support in exchange for money is very much 'what someone does'.

-----


So from your two examples, discrimination on the basis of one's employer is okay if the employer is not recognized as legitimate by the state, taxes are not remitted, etc.

How do you decide if it's okay or not to discriminate against employees when the employer in question is legal? You say it's never bad. How do you know that?

Is it okay for the IRS to discriminate on the basis of one's employer? What about other arms of the government?

-----


>How do you decide if it's okay or not to discriminate against employees when the employer in question is legal?

What is legal and what is ethical are not necessarily the same thing, hence laws changing to make slavery illegal, etc. Ethical considerations often result in the changing of laws.

-----


So ethical things can be illegal, unethical things can be legal.

Would discrimination against the employees of a legal employer in one's own state (country) ever be unethical?

-----


>Would discrimination against the employees of a legal employer in one's own state (country) ever be unethical?

Of course. Feel free to skip the leading questions and make whatever point you're working towards.

-----


I'm trying to understand how your mind works, I'm not making a specific point or leading you in a certain direction. It doesn't help when you don't answer questions directly, it looks like you're trying to avoid answering them - this could have been less painful. For my part I could have been less obtuse and aggressive.

I believe that discriminating against someone on the basis of their legal employment is unethical and you don't, so I'm trying to determine when it's okay and when it's not okay.

What I've learned is that some people (including you) believe that sometimes it's okay to discriminate against people on the basis of their legal employment and sometimes it's not, and that it's up to whether the employment in question goes against your own personal ethical standards.

I'm not condemning this discrimination, only noting that it goes against my own personal ethics. People need jobs to survive, and even Snowden spent more of his life as a bad guy than as a hero. I'm fine with discriminating against work, but not against workers.

If you want to explore the issue in more depth, fine - maybe there are more nuances - but I understand if you're tired of it.

-----


In the case where you are able to make a choice about which job you take then yes you definitely should be held to account for that choice. Because it is a moral one.

You had the choice of hacking for the good of people or you could join forces with 'The Man' and make a bunch of money. Maybe the choice isn't so binary, but nonetheless the choice is there. I could understand your statement, 'People need jobs to survive', if your profession was bricklayer, or shelf-stacker, but being a no doubt highly qualified individual in a booming field, as Snowden is, does not generally leave you scrambling to pay the rent and buy your groceries.

-----


So is it ethical for universities to reject applicants on the basis of their past/present/future employers being unethical in the selection committee's eyes?

-----


Let's break it down into whether it is ethical to reject based on past/present/future employers.

Present employers? Certainly. A number of business schools do this already in the selection process. If you run a gun school and a student comes to you to tell you he is using your training to rob a bank, it would be unethical to teach him. If you are doing training on hacking and you know the student will use this hacking for unethical and illegal wiretapping, it would be unethical to teach him. Again, it is fine to discriminate on what someone is doing.

Future employers? If the candidate is locked into the path - eg, he will use your training to rob a bank, then it would be unethical to teach him. However, as he has not done it yet, and people can change their minds, it would likely be ethical to teach him while also steering him towards the correct path. Ethical or not would depend on three factors: how likely you are to sway him; how much damage he would cause if you could not; and how easy it would be for him to find the training elsewhere, where he would likely not benefit at all from steering.

Past employers? This one is, unfortunately, much harder. If someone is a murderer and has not gone to jail, should you discriminate? If someone is a murderer and has gone to jail but is not repentant, should you discriminate? If he is repentant, should you discriminate? This one is difficult because it crosses the line of 'who one is' and 'what one does'. I'd say everyone will give different answers here based on a huge number of factors. It likely comes down to repentance and acknowledgment on whether what one does was wrong and believable agreement that it will not be done again.

-----


I forgot to put the word legal before employers like I did upthread. I'm sorry if that changes your answer and you feel like you wasted your time, because basically what you wrote about illegal employment makes sense to me. Thanks for the thoughtful response.

-----


Ah, if you put the word 'legal' there, then there is no discussion and nothing to talk about: legal is whatever it says in the law of your country. I'm not in USA, so I have no idea what is or isn't legal, and don't actually care. Legal has nothing to do with ethics and whether something is right or wrong, and doing something that is ethical but illegal is always preferred over something that is legal but unethical. It would always be an ethical imperative to attempt to change an unethical law as well.

Of coarse, sometimes we put our own safety above ethics, and people have differing opinions on whether that is right or not. There is no easy answer there.

-----


I am surprised to hear that laws and ethics have nothing to do with each other. Is it a random chance that murder is illegal and unethical just about everywhere?

Really I was just wondering if you have any examples of legal but unethical employers that you believe it's okay for a university to cite to discriminate against an applicant, in your home country. Perhaps the military?

-----


How did we get into employment? Is it legal to reject neo-Nazis from a parade?

-----


He needs to stop playing devils advocate. It's painfully obvious you are right. Why on earth would you want someone to leech information from a hacking convention to be used against those very same people? Fuck that. Ban whoever you need to ban.

-----


> So ethical things can be illegal, unethical things can be legal.

Ding ding ding. Please keep this in mind at all times.

They not only can be, but unfortunately both often are.

-----


It's interesting to me that you thought this was the first time I'd encountered this idea. I guess I need to work on my communication skills.

Also, this is a bit off-topic, but "ding ding ding" is rather condescending. I believe you think I'm somebody that I'm not.

-----


By "okay" do you mean "legal" or "ethical" or "moral"? In this case it looks to be completely legal.

Regarding federal law, discrimination on the basis of race, sex, national origin, and a few other protected classes is illegal. Discrimination on the basis of other factors is generally acceptable, except where they collide with membership in the protected classes. (For example, a hacker conference cannot require that all participants have an uncovered head and demand observant Jews, Sikhs, etc. to take off their religious headgear, since there is no safety need for it.) Employment in a specific company is in general not a protected class.

Some states have additional restrictions on which discriminatory practices are not okay. In California, the Unruh Civil Rights Act says: “All persons within the jurisdiction of this state are free and equal, and no matter what their sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, marital status, or sexual orientation are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever.”

Most civil rights protections limit the prohibition to a list of discriminatory classes. The Unruh act is different because, quoting from the courts: “The Act expresses a state and national policy against discrimination on arbitrary grounds. Its provisions were intended as an active measure measure that would create and preserve a nondiscriminatory environment in California business establishments by ‘banishing’ or ‘eradicating’ arbitrary, invidious discrimination by such establishments.”

For example an ACLU lawyer was found to be in violation of the Unruh Act because in a 1980 California public meeting on police surveillance practices, where the police chief was invited but declined to come, one of the police officers attended in civilian clothes, and never announced that he was an officer. The ACLU believed he was an undercover agent, and kicked him out. The officer sued, and the courts found that that was arbitrary discrimination.

In any case, DefCon is in Nevada, which does not have a similar law. I don't know enough about California law to be able to say if this prohibition against Fed participation is arbitrary or not, were it to take place in California.

-----


Well, so I mean ethical / moral (is there a distinction?) and the 1980 case involving the Unruh act is a legal embodiment of my own ethics / morals. Thanks for the details, that was enlightening.

-----


I encourage you to look it up for yourself (because you seem to have a lot to learn on the subject of ethics). Here's some starters:

http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/ethical

http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/moral#Adjective

"In general usage ethical is used to describe standards of behavior between individuals, while moral or immoral can describe any behavior. You can call lying unethical or immoral, for example, because it involves the behavior of one person and how it affects another, but violating dietary prohibitions in a holy text can only be described as immoral."

-----


Thank you for clarifying the distinction. I prefer this definition:

> Although the words can be considered synonyms, morals are beliefs based on practices or teachings regarding how people conduct themselves in personal relationships and in society, while ethics refers to a set or system of principles, or a philosophy or theory behind them. (Principles, however, is itself is a synonym for morals.) One lives according to one’s morals but adheres to one’s ethics while doing so. Morals are the tools by which one lives, and ethics constitute the manual that codifies them.

http://www.dailywritingtips.com/ethics-vs-morals/

which oddly conflicts with yours. This confusion is perhaps why I generally fail to make the distinction.

-----


I don't see how this can be in question, if the employees chose their employer freely. How can one seriously oppose a corporate entity if one may not oppose the people who comprise the corporate entity.

"Corporations are people, my friend".

-----


If employees choose their employers freely, what are interviews for?

-----


If people choose their spouses freely, what is dating for?

-----


Exactly?

-----


Any chance you could stop asking silly questions? The employees choose freely to apply for work there was (very obviously) what I meant.

-----


It may be what you meant, but it wasn't what I read. Anyway, fine.

If I apply to companies A and B, where A is ethical and B is unethical, but only B offers me a job, which I accept, have I freely chosen my employer? Let's assume these are the only companies available.

-----


Yes you freely applied to work for a company you believed to be unethical. But if there are only two companies available to work for and one is unethical you should probably move elsewhere. Just to be clear, my statement was aimed at educated people in countries with some choice of employment. It wasn't intended as an arch right-wing statement. If poverty or political circumstances remove your freedom to choose then that would invalidate what I said.

-----


There is truth to the fact that we can't completely choose who we work for. But none the less, you are responsible for the choices you make. If a man is repeatedly raped and abused as a child we still hold him accountable as a man who rapes someone.

-----


I basically am against discrimination on the basis of one's employer for the same principles behind any individual freedom. I might not like your work, but I respect that you are a taxpayer in the same state as me and as such contribute to our ability to meet in relative peace in the first place, and I won't condone organized discrimination against you on the basis of your legal work. If anything, I will petition the state to make your work illegal.

-----


I disagree. It's dangerous to let people slide because "they're just doing their job". People "just doing their job" are the enablers. Without them, none of the really serious man-made tragedies of history would have been possible.

-----


I have no problem with protesting the work people do. I just have a problem with locking them out of the protest.

-----


No one is locking them out of protesting in general. Just our protest.

-----


Well, it seems we have incompatible ethics. Either you violate mine or I violate yours.

-----


Well, they are partly for helping you choose your employer. Job interviews are 2 sided and I personally take the attitude that any employer who thinks otherwise has failed the interview process and is therefore ineligible for the position of employing me.

-----


I like your choice of metasyntactic variables.

-----


I bet you say that to all the boys.

-----


I would say that any voluntarily acquired and freely renounceable attribute is a valid and ethical attribute by which to judge the character of, or discriminate against, another person.

It may or may not be a good idea to do so, but the organizers of a private gathering may exclude whom they wish; the nature of ones employer is not an unethical standard for exclusion.

-----


When is discrimination against an individual based on his or her employer detrimental to the good of humanity?

Employers are kinda made up of the people that work for them. Any attempts to disassociate the two shall fail.

So yes, humanity is better when people actually have experience consequences for their actions -- instead of hiding behind other people, or symbols even, like "employer".

We're not talking about being mean to people because of their skin color, or not selling them ice cream because they're working for the Mafia. We're talking not selling them weapons, and not letting them buy you drinks and whatnot, because they're working for the Mafia. That's exactly appropriate.

What's next, not "discriminating" against people because they are running marathons for the Rapists Association, even though they're not rapists themselves? Boo-hoo, really.

You're making a mockery out of the word "discrimination" here. You're equating withdrawing support from those who do harm with being mean to handicapped people and whatnot: Fuck that, utterly and completely.

-----


>What's next, not "discriminating" against people because they are running marathons for the Rapists Association, even though they're not rapists themselves? Boo-hoo, really.

Can you leave free speech out of this.

Returning to the main point, the bigger problem with discriminating based on employer is that employers are very large entities. We cannot expect everyone to know everything their employer is doing, let alone be responsible or actively contributing to it. Also, as dalke points out, there is legal precedent precident that discrimination based on employers is discrimination (specifically the ACLU kicked out a non-uniformed unannounced police officer). Granted this was only a violation of (California) state law, but the law had a specific list of protected classes, and employer was not on it.

-----


All you are basically saying is that it is not ok to discriminate based on employer if the person has no idea what their employer is doing.

Presumably this is not the case if it is known what an employer is doing, although when it is not known what an employer is doing, discrimination based on employer would seem uncommon.

-----


Can you leave free speech out of this.

Maybe, if you could kindly explain what you mean by that, because I don't get it.

the bigger problem with discriminating based on employer is that employers are very large entities. We cannot expect everyone to know everything their employer is doing, let alone be responsible or actively contributing to it

There are over a hundred hours of Adolf Eichmann trials on Youtube. Watch any one of them, provided it contains him defending himself. So if the bigger problem is a complete non-issue, what does that say about the smaller ones?

Also, as dalke points out, there is legal precedent precident that discrimination based on employers is discrimination (specifically the ACLU kicked out a non-uniformed unannounced police officer). Granted this was only a violation of (California) state law, but the law had a specific list of protected classes, and employer was not on it.

What is legal or not might be an issue for the organizers, granted, but personally I care more about what is right and what isn't. So if they break the laws for this, more power to them; if they can find a loophole, also fine. Private clubs can invite whoever they fuck they want, for example; this wouldn't be very practical, but there's nearly always a way.

-----


I think you might be reading into my words a bit too far. The Mafia is not a legal employer. Requiring someone to have a legal employer in order to buy a legal weapon makes sense. (Perhaps. Maybe it makes sense for them not to have an illegal employer.) At any rate the Mafia do not generally buy legal weapons. As for not letting somebody buy me a drink, that's not exactly organizational discrimination - it's more like personal discrimination - but not letting a certain class of individuals enter a bar based on their legal employment is. Personal discrimination is a lot murkier, and everyone does it to some degree.

I know that I didn't make the distinction between legal and illegal until later on, so maybe you didn't see it.

-----


Doubt any lawyer or court would agree with that "Employers made up of the people that work for them" - except possibly in the case of a coop.

In the US and the UK employment law descends from the masters and servants act - Note the term.

-----


> When is discrimination against an individual based on his or her employer detrimental to the good of humanity?

Ever since we decided "just following orders" isn't a valid excuse.

-----


Would you think it a wise idea to offer any form of training to an active member of the Nazi regime?

-----


Lots of reasons. If someone were employed by, say, the Gestapo then it's pretty clear you would want to discriminate against them.

-----


You're the 3rd person to try and Godwin the thread.

Can we stick to discrimination against the employees of legal employers in one's own state that one recognizes as legitimate and one is not in active rebellion against?

-----


Can we stfu about Godwin? Do you even know what it means? It's from the time of usenet and all it was was an observation that when the Nazi's come up the discussion is usually over.

It's certainly not a good excuse to go ignoring important lessons in history. Nazi Germany is one of the better examples of why "just doing my job" is not a valid excuse for anything.

-----


Actually Godwin only said that the longer discussions on the internet get, the greater the chance of someone making a comparison to the Nazis. Various groups decided that if this event occurred it was an indicator that the person who made the comparison had lost the debate and that the discussion was over.

-----


Various groups may have decided that, and may even be right in some cases but there are plenty of valid reasons to bring up the Nazis for base line comparisons.

-----


I think you are confusing the current social/political issue (overreaching surveillance) with the mere fact that surveillance technology exists (a neutral thing, in and out of itself). This would be like speaking out against police in general, because police can be corrupt. It is understandable, but not realistic; we still want those robberies, murders and break-ins solved.

-----


Overreaching surveillance has been an open secret since ECHELON was revealed. The idea of mass surveillance tech existing without being abused is great, theoretically, but may not work in practice. Yes, we want intelligence organizations to do their jobs ethnically, but there is currently no reason for them to do so. Therefore, until there is a reason for these organizations to behave, it is entirely rational to do everything possible to lessen their currently excessive power.

-----


Wouldn't it be nice to have some people working in government that are not interested in undermining privacy and feeding the surveillance-industrial complex?

-----


Those sorts of people can, like Edward Snowden, find their own way into the system.

-----


There are in fact those people, in fact they probably represent the majority. I think when everything is said and done it is likely to be the case that all of this overreach was driven by either top-tier leadership or the political levels as opposed to some imaginary spooky minion bent on some mass-voyeuristic fantasy.

-----


Nice? Nice would be if "government" or "politician" was something every citizen did on the side and all the time, like breathing, instead of it being a profession. What you are suggesting is "slightly better than the worst", but nowhere near "nice" in my books.

Also, for what? So the rest can hide behind them? Because that's what effectively happens. Very little change, very great excuse. We couldn't even discuss police brutality here without some people moaning about how some cop or other is a decent person, as if generalizing to make a point is somehow worse than shooting unarmed people.

Not that I don't hear the point you're trying to make, I used to think that too, I don't anymore. When something is past the point of return, just throwing people at it won't turn it around, it just wastes perfectly good people. I'd rather lean on the assholes who currently work for assholes, to stop being assholes, than send non-assholes into that grinder.

-----


So you're saying we shouldn't have open source? Shouldn't publish information from conferences?

-----


Not publishing information would harm legitimate community. What is published, however, isn't the entirety of the value a conference provides. Anyone who attends conferences knows that much of the useful information is gained outside of talks. Malicious organizations personally attend conferences not simply to watch the talks in person, but to gather intelligence on infosec and target attendees and to create employee/CI relationships.

-----


I completely agree with your argument.

However, this seems to imply that all American hackers/entrepreneurs/etc.need to move to remote cabins in Montana and stop contributing to society, because anyone who contributes to society in America is directly supporting this system (albeit, 1 degree removed from those working directly for the government).

I currently don't know a way around this problem, and I don't actually want to stop being productive. I've had this on my mind for a while. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

-----


As a European graduate this is what keeps me away from moving to the bay area. Maybe you also could consider moving to a country with less surveillance?

-----


Well, I actually feel much more victimized by the notion that society owns me than that I'm being spied on, although both are a problem. The societal ownership of inviduals is a much bigger problem in Europe (outside of the UK), which has never had a history of individual rights, which was the explicit purpose of the Founding Fathers when they created the US.

-----


Which country would that be?

-----


Switzerland.

-----


considering how they rolled over with the banking issue I would not trust my data there anymore than some place else. What is to stop them from doing the same with any data should the US come knocking? Even your President seems to believe criminal investigation of Snowden may be warranted.

Now if your government finally does take a stand on the banking issue and tells US authorities to take a hike I would be more inclined to have similar faith in your nation as you do.

-----


One advantage of Switzerland is that the people have a much stronger voice in telling their politicians to do exactly that (and in some cases, voting on the issues themselves).

-----


Not true at all. It entirely depends on what you're building.

Build new tools to protect privacy. Advance encryption technology faster. Build new communication software to keep the NSA out. The list is practically infinite and applies to nearly every segment of web / internet / mobile / pc.

-----


> Not true at all. It entirely depends on what you're building.

No it doesn't. He's making the same argument terrorists sometimes use to justify their actions. We're not innocent -- that by paying taxes, voting, and otherwise being a member of our society, we're culpable for what that society chooses to do.

You don't get to pick and choose what your taxes fund; in large part, that's the whole point of taxation.

-----


You don't get to pick and choose what your taxes fund; in large part, that's the whole point of taxation.

Sort of. I illegally decided to refuse to pay my taxes to the federal government, and instead payed extra taxes to my state government.

http://izbicki.me/blog/why-and-how-im-refusing-to-pay-war-ta...

-----


There's still a difference.

When I am in a room, I contribute to the humidity of that room. Now imagine me turning on the faucet or boiling some water.... and then saying "I can't turn them off, it would make no sense, I would contribute to the humidity either way!".

I'll just go ahead and say if people can't think at all, so that they only know the difference between "nothing exists" and "everything is the same", then whatever they're building can't be that good, and chances are great we'd be better of without it.

-----


Sure, there are degrees of contribution, and direct is clearly more intentioned than indirect, but at the end of the day the beast doesn't care if it's fed willingly or unwillingly, and the vast majority of government funding is involuntary. If it's going to die, it needs to be unable to feed, what people are willing to contribute is irrelevant when its primary income is violently coerced.

I have thought long and hard about that underlying argument and at the end of the day I both could not find a flaw with it, and was subsequently compelled to become a globally nomadic anarcho capitalist, just to avoid being forced to contribute to what amounts to only a fairly tame by comparison lackey of the US.

-----


at the end of the day the beast doesn't care if it's fed willingly or unwillingly

I totally hear what you saying and as a matter of fact, I used to be very depressed by this. And maybe I'm being a coward. But I also think that billions of people need to be organized somewhat to live together, even millions or thousands. We need plumbing, we need roads, hospitals, and even taxes. To some degree, at least. I mean, come on, even though there are bad doctors, it's kinda cool that I can just look one up in the yellow pages and have a great chance of getting competent treatment. Or eat fast food without dying of salmonella or something. It's not perfect, but I don't want medieval times back either. Yeah, I'm probably a coward ^^

Still, to me the problem isn't so much that there is government, but that it's not a mechanism for people to govern themselves, but like something external we accept to be broken and our enemy, instead of us. That it's a shitty government, run by people who wanted to get in for all the wrong reasons - instead of by everyone, all the time. Mr. Taxman [1], who just lies to you before election and there is fuck all anyone can do.

As Chomsky said, governments have one "defect", they are theoretically democratic -- corporations have no defect, they're pure tyrannies. So unless you become some kind of super inventor / investor, and so rich that you and others of your calibre could really move things around, well.. you'd still have your voice I guess. And that might be enough, there are surely ways to not pay into the wrong hands and still affect people, so I'm not knocking it at all. If you can pull it off, good luck! And write a book/blog about it, too.

[1] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_0M__0Z1pjg

-----


I'll take a pure tyranny I can choose whether or not to participate in over a democracy that demands my submission on all collective decisions any day of the year. I don't even really understand the reasonableness of the counterpoint to that position I have to admit, people take that position just come across as faintly unhinged.

-----


> was subsequently compelled to become a globally nomadic anarcho capitalist, just to avoid being forced to contribute to what amounts to only a fairly tame by comparison lackey of the US

This is a really interesting story, and I'm going to be giving it a lot of thought. One problem for me is that I do computer science research (I'm a grad student), and I'd like to keep doing something somewhere similar after I graduate (but self-employed), but if you're working on generic low-level computer stuff that can be re-used by everybody ad infinitum, the state will use it. I'm not a Linux kernel developer, for example, but that's a good analogy. I don't see a good way to stop supporting the state without giving up on doing computer science research. I'd appreciate any thoughts.

So, you don't have to pay taxes (except for things like sales tax) to any state? As an American, I think I'd have to renounce my citizenship (they still make you pay taxes when you are overseas), which would probably have a number of negative impacts for me personally, such as possibly making travel difficult.

Overall, I'm not so sure that I agree with your conclusions, but I'm still thinking about it. Yes, I am supporting the state, but not willingly, and not quietly (though I am not vocal about my opposition to the system in my corporeal life, which wouldn't do any good anyway in my work environment, and would probably do much harm). Actually, I'm the victim. Is a Jew working in a munitions factory in Nazi Germany morally obligated to commit suicide rather than try to ride out the war? I would say "no," and I would tentatively say that about the actual situation I am in, for the same reasons.

My bigger concern about supporting the system as I do is that it is self-defeating (of myself). In the limit (i.e., in communism), there is no possibility for productive labor, because 100% of your earnings will be taken by the government and used against you. We are not in that situation. Still, US government action seems to be moving in the direction of making it impossible to start and run small businesses; this is already the case in some sectors, like telecom. When all there are, are large corporate giants under tight regulatory control (which is literally the model adopted by Hitler and Mussolini), we are all worker drones; it would be equally (un)productive for me personally to work a a cashier at Wal-Mart as it would be to be a software engineer. (Because you get paid approximately the same in both cases and true innovation is illegal or impossiblein both cases.) I fear that we are not all that far from that situation.

-----


Have you thought long and hard about how you will avoid contributing to the corporations that also stand in the way of complete liberty? Or is it just the government you're afraid of?

-----


Yes, it was extremely complex and I consider myself quite ingenious for accomplishing this breathtaking feat of ingenuity, but here's the trick;

If you disapprove of anything about a business, it turns out that you can actually choose not to support them economically. When you make this choice they lack the ability to send thugs in costume around to kidnap/torture/murder you.

Further, if enough people in a free market agree with your evaluation of that business, it will actually stop existing rather than grow larger and larger fuelled by continuously increasing external security threats and various other negative externalities provoked by the kinds of things that aggravated you about it in the first place.

Fascinating stuff. These incentives for behaviour are responsible for some amazing feats throughout history, too. When you can't just kill people for refusing to support you, you often end up needing to provide actual value.

Not always mind you, some particularly unscrupulous businesses can become joined at the hip with the state and feed from the same larcenous trough, but at that stage it's hard to actually distinguish where they end and the state begins, thus your normal actions to avoid support to the state hit this particular shambling hybrid just as hard.

That's actually the difference between state and non state actors typically speaking, one you don't get to tell you're not interested in without risk of death. Mindblowingly complex stuff I know.

-----


As enjoyable as the sarcasm is, you've only eliminated direct contribution to corporations that you know that you disapprove.

But you have already stated that you oppose even indirect contributions to government. Why the contradiction? Do you oppose indirect support to things that take actions you disapprove of, or not?

-----


You are confusing the concepts of degree and knowledge.

Knowingly or unknowingly, willingly or unwillingly... these lay on difference axises.

I could excuse those who unknowingly willingly contribute to an atrocity (Paul Stabenow of the Tesch & Stabenow corporation is arguably an example). The unknowing unwilling are similarly hard to blame. Examples for this escape me at the moment though I am certain that there are examples in history of people compelled to work who did not know what they were contributing to. If I had to guess, I would say that workers for the Tesch & Stabenow corporation in the company's later years could perhaps fit this category.

Examples of the knowing unwilling could be the workers at Mittelwerk. They knew what they were contributing to and were forced to continue. Knowing willing could arguably include Wernher von Braun, though some would (mistakenly, I think) put him on the edge of knowingly unwillingly.

-----


I have no confusion between the two concepts. Common sense always applies for starters ("Wow, a 99¢ hamburger! Obviously those cattle were treated humanely!").

Likewise blissful ignorance is no excuse (in an indirect world) for being unaware of the reasonable impact or influence of your allocation of capital. Otherwise there's no reason to complain of indirectly helping the government by paying taxes, for all I know every single penny of my tax money could have gone to provide food for the needy and beds for the homeless and it's just your taxes that are going toward funding guns and NSA.

The whole idea that one must know that some corporations are shadier than others belies the very question I asked, since one could willingly contribute to only those aspects of government which are considered good and to none of the other ones (which are considered bad, knowingly or unknowingly).

OP has rejected that argument in its entirety though; there is no way to claim unknowing and unwilling support of bad government in that view, so why should it be permissible to unknowingly and unwillingly support bad corporations?

-----


> for all I know every single penny of my tax money could have gone to provide food for the needy and beds for the homeless and it's just your taxes that are going toward funding guns and NSA.

It's a collective pool to which you contribute which is used for both purposes, you bear some responsibility for both actions by extension.

> since one could willingly contribute to only those aspects of government which are considered good and to none of the other ones (which are considered bad, knowingly or unknowingly).

No, they couldn't, your option to contribute to the state is violently coerced and the allocation after it is violently coerced is out of your hands. You can play games imagining your money went to a nurse instead of a CIA black ops mission to overthrow a popular foreign leader and prop up the interests of your state in the region, but at the end of the day that's all that is, a game.

> so why should it be permissible to unknowingly and unwillingly support bad corporations?

It isn't; you are responsible for the repercussions of that 99c hamburger, act accordingly. You're right that's the only consistent position, and you're right that it implies that people are responsible for the actions of the entities and organisations which they support.

If you simply ignore material reality and obvious facts so you can ignore having to deal with the cognitive dissonance that comes from contributing directly to behaviour you despise, then you're once again just playing games. It's your responsibility to make your decisions and your responsibility to examine the repercussions of those decisions, I understand that the concept of personal responsibility is completely alien to the vast majority of statist humans in existence, but that doesn't stop it being the only path I am able to accept.

The knowingly or unknowingly bit gets slightly harder however since it's not completely beyond the realm of imagination that you might trust a party with which you choose to do business to behave in accordance with your expectations and standards. However, the difference there is, once it becomes clear they've violated that trust, you retain the option to cease your dealings with them.

No matter how many times the state violates that trust, you do not acquire that option, your option is the same as it was to begin with, serve or die.

-----


> No matter how many times the state violates that trust, you do not acquire that option, your option is the same as it was to begin with, serve or die.

You do have options though. Go somewhere that has no state, convince the people to disestablish the state (oh, and somehow prevent them from re-establishing one), or go somewhere that has a state that you would be willing to serve.

-----


If you're actually serious the best part about this response is that you honestly consider it a mitigation.

Hey if you don't like your gang just join another one. Or convince all the other gangsters to quit the gang and all people everywhere to never start a gang again. But don't think for a minute you can stop following orders from the Don.

-----


You can always refuse to do what the Don says... just don't be surprised at what the Don does after he finds that he has no use for you.

I wish I could tell you the world was different, but it's not. We live in a real world, not an utopia. No matter where you go there will be some variant of the 'despot with a stick', whether they call themselves guv'nah or not.

-----


I can respect that, acknowledging that they all are just a pack of murdering thugs at the end of the day and it's not some system for the service of the people was my entire point. I will not be a slave, I don't care what that costs me, it's already made me give up ever having roots and a family so if it gets worse I'll accept that before compromising my principles.

-----


> He's making the same argument terrorists sometimes use to justify their actions. We're not innocent -- that by paying taxes, voting, and otherwise being a member of our society, we're culpable for what that society chooses to do.

Actually, I'm not making that argument. This may be a subtle difference that is not important for this discussion, though.

My argument is that as a victim of the US government, it doesn't make sense to keep supporting the system that is victimizing me. All the work I do in my life will be approximately 1 step forward, 1 step back.

(Quite literally, as the tax rate is probably roughly around 50% in all, though I don't really mean it in that sense.)

-----


Doesn't the NSA do all of that too though? They standardized Suite B crypto, invented SHA-1 (and -0), developed SELinux, etc. etc.

-----


While I think "1 degree removed" is better than the alternative, you do have a valid point.

-----


Life is not binary.

Imagine you're in a room you can't get out of. By the nature of aerobic respiration, you're slowly transforming all the oxygen into carbon dioxide. Now imagine there is a running car in the room with you. Do you first shut off the car to prevent it from filling up the room with exhaust and carbon monoxide, or do you give up because there's no point in life?

You can either give up by selling all your belongings and begin to live on the street as a non-tax paying citizen, or you can do something to stop the things that are taking away your freedoms and liberties, or at the very least, do something to make it harder for those that want to take away your freedoms to do so.

I suffer from depression and have had times in life where suicide is a real option, yet I can't imagine how anyone can think "welp, I better give up now because there isn't a point in trying!" There's always an option. Exercise that option.

-----


>You can either give up by selling all your belongings and begin to live on the street as a non-tax paying citizen, or you can do something to stop the things that are taking away your freedoms and liberties, or at the very least, do something to make it harder for those that want to take away your freedoms to do so.

False dichotomy, there are other options that both don't lend any legitimacy to the state and allow you to live a pretty good life these days. Especially for people with technically advanced skillets. The world is much bigger than the tax farm you were born in which claims dominion over you, and outside the borders of that farm, its powers are greatly diminished.

-----


Unless that particular farm is the US or North Korea. Both of which expect you to keep filing taxes on money you earn no matter where you earn it [1].

[1] Obviously there are exemptions for foreign earned income, but if you're in country with lower tax than the US (of which there are a fair amount) you could end up paying the US taxes on money that has literally nothing to do with them. Worse, if you're married to a native of that country and must file jointly in the new country then the US expects you to file jointly with them too and pay taxes on your spouses earning.

-----


Yeah if I was from the US I would have to renounce my citizenship, but there's no doubt in my mind I would have done so if necessary. Also it's the US and some African tinpot dictatorship if memory serves.

-----


> do something to stop the things that are taking away your freedoms and liberties, or at the very least, do something to make it harder for those that want to take away your freedoms to do so.

Like what? (Last time I asked this question on HN I got about 5 answers that said "Call your Congressman," which I don't agree with.) I honestly don't believe there's anything I can do that would change things meaningfully, even if I dedicated my whole life to it, short of maybe starting a major political movement, which I highly doubt I'd be able to do.

-----


Well that's the problem, there's not much any one of us individually would be able to do. It has a be a mass movement to effect that type of change.

Even simply refusing to join these organizations doesn't help as much as you might think. NSA can teach smart people to program if it comes to that, so there's always someone to fill the seat. Only now, the person filling that seat has ethical norms even farther away from yours.

-----


I've got certain friends working for the gov't at three letter agencies that this year have been explicitly told they are not allowed to attend DEF CON either under the banner of the agency or on their own time.

This was announced before this post by DT though.

-----


>It's a booze-fueled learning, partying and networking event unlike any other

Is there any way to get use out of it that doesn't include 'booze-fueled and partying'. I have no problem with booze, but I definitely dislike partying. Yes, I'm a wet blanket, but if the partying atmosphere is where the use comes from, I would seriously be uninterested.

I know that actually does limit the networking part too.

-----


I went to "theSummit" last year as a speaker. The speakers were all asked to wear blinky badges so people could find them and ask about their talks. Unfortunately, in proper party fashion, they had the DJ playing crap music so loudly that any real discussion was impossible. There was little of interest in there, really, so I took my leave pretty quickly.

I much prefer to hang at the bars on the casino floor and talk to whoever comes around. They let you smoke, the music is better and less deafening, and you'll meet more interesting people.

There's a big element at DEFCON of people who read way too many Neal Stephenson novels, got a utilikilt and a mohawk, and are roleplaying as haxxors. Escape that. Find interesting talks. Find feds, because they're getting paid to do security work and are often damn good at it. Don't feel like you have to go to every talk.

-----


>Is there any way to get use out of it that doesn't include 'booze-fueled and partying'.

Sure, you can check out the talks, wander around the venue (CTF, vendor booths, etc), talk to people. The "partying" isn't as rampant as some may have you believe. Sure there are parties, but it's not like you will be dragged into one. They also appear to be non-inclusive. I know I wasn't invited to any last year (and I'm no wet towel! ;). In fact, I was uninvited to one (you can't come; it's "private"). There is still plenty to get out of going and plenty of fun to be had.

-----


I like all the competitions and games you can join before or during the con (check the forums for official contests etc). Hacker Jeopardy is by far my favorite con event. On Thursday there's the Atomic Barbeque, which is a great way to network with people and chow down. I don't know if they still do the Hacker Iron Chef, but that was fun to watch.

Getting into parties is half the fun! I remember the times I social engineered my way into the Ninja party. Humans are so insecure...

p.s. even if you don't drink, the quickest way to make friends at defcon is to give someone free alcohol. the goons also appreciate free beverages.

-----


I'm pretty sure this is a joke since DT himself can be considered a fed, and there are lots of Defcon leadership that work with/for the feds as well.

-----


I considered that. And yeah, DT is definitely a federal employee.

I guess it depends on what you consider a 'fed.' Is a sysadmin at NASA a Fed? They are employed by the federal government...

Law enforcement--especially intelligence--is not going to be particularly well received this year. In the years I've attended, it's always a friendly sort of cat and mouse game. "You're the Fed, I'm the hacker, let's get a beer!" What with PRISM and domestic surveillance, though, I wouldn't be surprised if this was a serious effort by the con to reduce drama and distance itself from the intelligence and law enforcement communities.

Is General Alexander still keynoting Black Hat?

-----


Yes Gen. Alexander is still speaking at Black Hat. I'm not sure that DT has the influence inside Black Hat that he once did. I would be interested to see how that talk goes down, but then BH has never been about "hackers" in the way that DEF CON is

There appears to be a distinct effort to separate BH and DC this year, there is less speaker overlap compared with previous years, attendance to BH doesn't get you in to DC like it used to, etc. This is probably UBM (owners of the BH brand) trying to protect their revenue.

-----


The standard for "spot the fed" was "someone with federal arrest powers" -- even an NSA sysadmin wouldn't count.

-----


I wouldn't be surprised if this was a serious effort by the con to reduce drama and distance itself from the intelligence and law enforcement communities.

Despite practically being in bed together, and all that is supposed to change just like that? It seems like some sick joke, from the outside looking in of course…

Then again, it has more or less always been this way and maybe things seem different now that the tide has receded a bit…

-----


>this is a joke

More of a PR effort to salvage the brand than a joke, I'd guess.

-----


I've been attending for generally the same time frame. It seems a bit ironic as it was made known to me that the majority of the organizers are feds now. Are they all staying away too?

-----




Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Lists | Bookmarklet | DMCA | Y Combinator | Apply | Contact

Search: